Europe on the “Critical Path”

Not often that such a project management term hits the news, but that is exactly what has been reported here, as Europe is on the “Critical Path”!

Quality Critical

Space missions, especially manned missions, are clearly ‘quality critical‘, but they are often also ‘time constrained’ by planetary alignments. It is highly advantageous to launch a mission to Mars when Mars and the Earth are correctly aligned to minimise travel time, and fuel loads.

However in this case, the ORION 3-week mission (EM-1) around the moon, is time constrained by pressure from NASA to deliver for a demonstration (unmanned) flight of ORION in 2018. To achieve that target, Airbus as the provider of the 13 tonne service module, will have to ship to America in early 2017.

Edit: This project has an updated blog post September 2019 here!

Deliver on Time

Time pressure is acknowledged in the report, with concurrent engineering being employed as ‘Final Assembly’ is starting before the ‘Critical Design Review’ has completed.

At a price of 390 million euros, Airbus and the European Space Agency (ESA) will be keen to see a successful, and profitable mission, with repeat business for the manned mission (EM-2) scheduled for ‘no later than 2023’.

Apollo 17 Lift Off

Apollo 17 Lift Off

It is now nearly 44 years since Apollo 17 took the last men to the moon, and for much of that time no vehicle has existed capable of a return journey. ORION changes that situation.

The 2018 mission will break a few records: the most powerful rocket, the furthest a ‘human capable’ vehicle has travelled, and 70,000km beyond the moon.

You can be sure that by using the words “on the critical path” in a press release, NASA are reminding Airbus and the ESA that delivery on-time is expected. You can also be sure that Airbus and the ESA will have detailed plans and know exactly where the critical path is on their development and assembly process. However, if I was a potential crew member for a mission, I’d prefer that the article was extolling the excellent quality standards employed on the project, rather than actions to get the project completed ‘on-time’.

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Edit: This project has an updated blog post September 2019 here!


Posted On: 24th May 2016

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